Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Toy Review: Verizon RAZR Cell Phone

It was time for a new mobile phone. I still like Verizon's coverage better than the others and basically just want a small phone. I choose the new RAZR. I got a $100 tradein (it's been almost 2 years) and there's a $100 mail in rebate, so only $150 for the phone and car charger.

The phone is a little taller and wider than my last phone but it's a LOT thinner. This is nice, it fits easily in a shirt pocket, or in the same pocket as my wallet (not with keys). Battery life seems good, I've only gotten it down to about 50% after a couple of days. The phone has a camera, bluetooth, speaker phone, voice dial, etc. Sound quality seems fine, which is really the most important thing. Overall at this level, it's been a fine phone.

A nice thing about the phone is that the connector is a standard mini-USB connector. So you can charge it from a laptop with just a USB-mini-USB connector (available with many digital cameras). It of course comes with a charger that connects to it as well. Hopefully future phones will do this too and we can stop buying new accessories with each phone.

While the RAZR comes from Motorola, Verizon is trying to standardize the interface across all their phones. The RAZR has the standard Verizon UI. It's kinda ugly with red bars across the top and bottom of the screen but it's mostly pretty usable. I haven't done any of the connect to the net, download ringtones or pics that I think they charge extra money for. The problem is, this UI is installed on top of the Motorola UI and there are some bugs. There's no Vibrate Then Ring support, which is annoying, you choose vibe or ring. There's a calendar bug that after you have about 60 entries, the calendar is unusable. There's no way to unassign a speed dial number, you move the number to another location. The phone comes with about 25 ringtones and they are ok. I could find a few that wouldn't embarrass me in public. The UI seems inconsistent in that some functions move across several keys in different places. E.g, editing some options is done with the left soft key sometimes and with the select (middle of the directional pad) key in other places. Going back is sometime a soft key and sometimes the Clr key. You can configure the down button to go directly to various functions but the left, right and up buttons are hard coded to various Verizon features, even though I never use them.

Now the real stuff. A nice feature is the bluetooth support. Verizon only supports connecting a bluetooth headphone, in fact, they've tried to disable using the bluetooth for anything else. But they screwed up and left what's known as OBEX support enabled. So after downloading a single file for my mac to teach iSync about the RAZR I can connect my mac to my phone. iSync is a program that comes with the mac to sync Address Book and Calendar information. I created a Phone group in Address Book and put 65 contacts in it. I used iSync once and all these contacts and month's worth of calendar entries were copied to my phone. That was fantastic. The only problem was that all the phone numbers (and email addresses) got assigned random speed dial numbers and with the poor design of the UI it was a pain to reassign them. Of course after a week I learned about the above mentioned calendar bug and have to stop doing that (a failed sync deleted iCal events from my mac). Still, having contact info sync'ed between the mac and the phone is wonderful.

You can also use the bluetooth support to copy files to the phone. These include pictures, ringtones, video clips. I'm one of the few mac users I know that actually uses Address Book and I also have associated pictures with contacts so I see their faces in email and IM. I put the pics on the phone and when someone calls me, their picture will appear on the outside display, cute. After copying them to the phone I had to associate their contact with the pic, which was tedious but not difficult. I also started creating some ringtones. All you need is an mp3 file. I took clips from songs I have in iTunes, used the free program Audacity to trim the clips to something short and copied them to the phone. I'm very happy with this.

So I like the phone but now my delimma. Verizon will fix the various bugs in a software update this quarter, but that update will also disable the OBEX support. This is so annoying. In order to encourage me to use their services, which I won't anyway, they've disabled my favorite functions of the phone. Really, why shouldn't I be able to keep the address book and calender on my computer and phone in sync? Why shouldn't I be able to take my music, which I've paid for, and use it as ringtones. Why shouldn't I be able to put my pictures on my phone for free? Verizon, please start treating your customers with respect. I know Verizon has every right to do this and my option is to take my business elsewhere. My problem is that even crippled, I think the RAZR is the best phone for me. It could just be so much better.

1 comment:

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